For Ozz Negri, this weekend’s European Le Mans Series season-opener at Silverstone marks a homecoming in more ways than one.
After more than 20 years away, the veteran Brazilian driver makes his return to European competition, at the same track where he honed his racing skills as an up-and-coming open-wheel driver.
Negri, who lived in Silverstone for four years during his time in British Formula Ford and Formula 3, also got married to his wife, Claudia, in the nearby town of Towcester.
“It’s funny. Although it’s been a lot of long years ago, it feels like it was yesterday,” Negri told Sportscar365.
“The track did change a lot, but as most things here in Britain, they all look the same. We have a lot of friends here. It’s cool to be back and bring the Florida sunshine.”
While Negri fought against the likes of future Formula One stars Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard, his career took him to America, where he’s become one of the prominent drivers in IMSA competition.
He’s now set for one of his busiest seasons yet, with a dual-championship effort, adding his ELMS drive with Krohn Racing on top of his longstanding ride with Michael Shank Racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The common link between the two programs is the chassis, as both Shank and Krohn utilize the same Ligier JS P2, albeit with different engine and tire partners.
Negri got to turn his first laps in Krohn’s Judd-powered, Michelin-shod LMP2 contender in a test at Rockingham Speedway on Tuesday, in preparation for Saturday’s Four Hours of Silverstone.
“That was the best thing of this deal,” he said. “Obviously the Ligier is a great chassis and driving wise, it’s exactly the same deal, just on different tires [and with a different engine].
“One car is lighter than the other as well. There’s a little bit more grip, less weight, less power. I would say it was easier for me adapt.
“In the end, driving the car is just driving the car. You just have to understand what it needs and wants.”
Teaming with Nic Jonsson and Tracy Krohn in the Krohn green-colored prototype, Negri is looking forward to the challenge ahead not only this weekend, but throughout the year.
He’s confirmed to drive in four of the five ELMS races, as the round at the Red Bull Ring clashes with the TUDOR Championship race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.
Besides Silverstone, which is now run on a revised 18-turn, 3.66-mile Arena layout, the other three circuits will be totally new experiences for Negri.
“One thing that I think will be not easy will be track time,” he said. “At a place like this, to get the confidence and go through the fast stuff and get it right, you need the track time.
“There are a lot of good names out there. I’d say the British drivers and British teams [will have the advantage this weekend]… There are a couple teams based here in Silverstone.
“They’ll have the upper hand from the get-go, but I’m hoping we do a good enough job to put us on the top few positions.”
With the team has yet to finalize its third driver for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Negri is hopeful to be given that chance as well, after what he’s characterized as an turnaround of fortunes after recently turning 50 year old.
One thing’s for sure, and that’s Negri hasn’t lost any bit of his speed, as the recent Rolex 24 at Daytona polesitter is hoping to help take the Krohn squad back to the top step of the overall podium for the first time in a decade.